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It’s Time for a Collaborative G20 Digital Agenda

The G20 member states account for 85 percent of the global economy and are home to half of the world’s Internet users. From artificial intelligence to personal data protections, our physical world is being shaped by our digital world. As current president of the G20, Argentina has put a range of digital challenges on the table. But to tackle these, we need credible commitments and a long-term roadmap.

As three leading organisations from the Internet community, we welcome that Argentina continued the G20 digital work begun by Germany in 2017. Last year, Germany and the other G20 members outlined their aspirations for the development of our digital societies. And the Argentine presidency has identified five priority areas — digital inclusion, future job skills, digital government, SMEs and entrepreneurship, and Industry 4.0 — all dependent on a strong digital economy and society. Now is the year to turn these aspirations into actions.

We call on Argentina to build on this consensus with a dedicated G20 digital agenda. This roadmap must include milestones to the next G20 presidency, to be held by Japan. Priority commitments should include:

Thoughtful and proactive digital policies are needed to reap social and economic benefits for all, the G20 and beyond. A G20 digital agenda can help us to address the challenges facing the health of the Internet and future of the web and establish trust in the development of our digital lives.

The new challenges we face are complicated, but can be tackled through collaboration among all stakeholders to find the right solutions. Argentina can lead this effort through the G20. It must create a convening space, invite participation and ensure transparency and trust — from sharing documents to providing opportunities for inputs from across the spectrum.

The G20 member states are in a position to set the parameters for a global digital agenda that puts the individual first and makes the most of technology for society. We hope they will live up to this responsibility.

This is a joint blog post by the Internet Society, Mozilla and the World Wide Web Foundation.

Cathleen Berger, Global Engagement Lead, Mozilla
Constance Bommelaer de Leusse, Senior Director, Global Internet Policy, Internet Society
Craig Fagan, Policy Director, Web Foundation

Internet Governance

G20 Nations Must Set Clear Priorities For Digital Agenda

This is a joint blog post by the Internet Society, Mozilla and the World Wide Web Foundation.

Home to two-thirds of the world’s population and 90 percent of its economic output, the G20 countries are a powerhouse that have yet to take on a coordinated digital agenda. 

This could be about to change. Under the German presidency of the G20, digital concerns – from getting people connected to protecting people’s data once they are – have been made a priority through a new ‘Roadmap for Digitalisation’. Now the question is: will other G20 members like Brazil, China, and Russia be willing to translate this initial support into firm G20 commitments that Argentina will continue to drive during the next G20 presidency?

As three leading organisations from the Internet community, we are looking to the world leaders who will gather in Hamburg, Germany for the summit on 7-8 July to set clear priorities for the G20 digital agenda.

They have good reason to. Digital industries have become central to all G20 economies and must form an integral part of their agenda. If the G20 are looking at their future prosperity and security, they must ensure the digital economy brings connectivity, opportunities, and benefits for everyone, while guarding against the risk that digital technologies could drive inequality and exclusion. It is more important now than ever to lay the foundations for an effective, principle-based security framework that respects fundamental rights and ensures user trust. Unilateral or short-sighted solutions, such as on encryption, will fall short to address these challenges.

We believe that Germany’s presidency has set a good precedent for other G20 countries – and especially Argentina – to follow. The proposed G20 “Roadmap for Digitalisation” provides the right framing to address many of the digital community’s current concerns: from strengthening trust in the digital economy and consumer online protections, to bridging digital divides.

Now, to turn intention into action, the resulting agreement from the July summit (the communique) must acknowledge and elevate these issues as part of the overall G20 agenda and form an integral part of the official strategies and policies for G20 leaders. Priorities should include digital access and bridging the current divides, not just in terms of connectivity but also in terms of enabling meaningful access and empowering people. Infrastructure, skills-building, and inclusion must be the drivers to shape an open, free and transformative internet – bringing sustainable development and opportunities to all.

Today, heads of state have a historical opportunity to lay the right foundations for a global digital agenda. We hope that they use it.

Cathleen Berger, Global Engagement Lead, Mozilla
Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director, Global Internet Policy, Internet Society
Craig Fagan, Policy Director, Web Foundation

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Understand more, fear less: How the future of the Internet can be designed with a human face

Last week, the G20’s ministers responsible for the digital economy met in Düsseldorf to prepare this year´s G20 summit, scheduled for Hamburg, July 2017. Building on important strides initiated two years ago during the G20 summit in Antalya and based on the G20 Digital Economy Development and Cooperation Initiative (DEDCI), which was adopted last year under the Chinese G20 presidency, the Düsseldorf meeting adopted a “ G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Declaration” which includes also a “Roadmap for Digitalisation”. One day before the ministerial meeting, non-state actors were invited to discuss “Policies for a Digital Future” within a so-called Multistakeholder Conference.

The ministerial outcome document reflects a deepened understanding of the Internet’s role in the future. It reiterates the importance of the digital economy for the overall economy, for growth, job creation, and a sustainable development. And it reaffirms the commitment to the goals and principles laid down in the documents of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the OECD Ministerial Declaration of Cancun (June 2016).

Despite the diversity of the “Group of Twenty” – which includes both the G7 countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy) and the BRICS countries (China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa) as well as countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Argentina – the document recognizes, “that freedom of expression and the free flow of information, ideas and knowledge across border are essential for the digital economy and beneficial to development”. Furthermore it “reaffirms support for ICT policies that preserve the global nature of the Internet” and “allow Internet users to lawfully access online information, knowledge, and services of their choice”.

It is also remarkable that Paragraph 3 of the Düsseldorf Declaration reaffirms the G20 commitment “to a multistakeholder approach to Internet Governance, which includes full and active participation by governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community and international organisations, in their respective roles and responsibilities”. The ministers of the G20 countries also support “multistakeholder processes and initiatives which are inclusive, transparent and accountable to all stakeholders.”

This is good news and will help to deepen and broaden the still controversial discussions around “enhanced cooperation”, “Internet fragmentation” and “multistakeholder models” in the global Internet Governance Ecosystem.

But what the meeting also showed was increasing concerns around trust, and new challenges offsetting the Internet’s benefits. In many regards, it reflected a view that the Internet is no longer a naïve space which offers more and more opportunities, but a technology with risks and threats and with significant impact on humans lives and diplomatic relations. Indeed, despite the world’s increasing dependency this global network the Internet has become a centerpiece of a political context where globalization is being put into question.

New reflexes of fear are emerging, and not only from governments who may sense they are losing control of their national boundaries and see new risks of cyberattacks against their critical national infrastructure. Workers are fearing that digitalization will destroy their jobs, consumer movements argue that new business models undermine consumer protection, and industry is proactively calling for norms to limit state-sponsored cyber-attacks in times of peace. Developing countries are fearing to become marginalized in a digital world. Micro-, small and medium-sized business (MSMSs) are fearing to have no chance to compete with the digital giants. And individuals are fearing to lose their privacy and digital identity.

We’ve seen many of these issues expressed in the consultations of the Internet Society’s “ Internet Futures” project. And indeed, many of those “digital fears” are real and justified. However, innovation always produces opportunities which go along with risks. More opportunities, more risks.

This is not new. We saw this when the automobile was invented (the risk was that people will die in car crashes and the air will be polluted) or when nuclear fission was discovered (the risk was nuclear war and nuclear energy disasters). The way forward was always the same: Do not to stop innovation, but develop strategies to get the threats under control. Maximize opportunities, minimize risks. The airbag in the car or the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) in the world of nuclear bombs are two examples, how safeguards can be developed – both by other technical innovation or by good will in intergovernmental negotiations.

In shaping the future, we must not be naïve but we should not let fear become the driving force for the development. As Marie Curie once said as she was making ground-breaking discoveries “now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less“, because nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” But in today´s digital environment understanding alone is certainly not enough. What we need are also actions. What we need are innovations like an “airbag” and“NPT” for the digital future.

Is the digital revolution to be human?

If trust in institutions such as media, business or governments is eroding in general, the Internet is no exception as shown in Internet Society’s 2016 Global Internet Report on Data Breaches.

The G20 preparatory process revealed that many stakeholders question the value of the digital revolution for mankind. The transformation resulting from the Internet of Things (IoT) combined with artificial intelligence and robotics will certainly drive the potentially radical transformation of industry and society. And while the impact of this technological transformation is yet to be seen, it is important that they have a human dimension at their core.

In many regards, the challenges of the future will also amplify the challenges we have today. As Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web stated recently, we seem to have lost control of our personal data in an online world increasingly characterized by monitoring and surveillance. An unsustainable environment increasingly portrayed by manipulation and distrust where it seems no one is liable nor accountable

Another increasing fear is the impact of ICTs on jobs. Studies predicting that 50% of today’s jobs are at risk of automation, and where 65% of children entering primary school will end up working in new job types that don’t yet exist, are all sources of anxiety.

While many of these fears are well-grounded, there is also a need to approach them in a sound and strategic manner. Many aspects of automation, for instance, are still dependent on innovations yet to come, and adapting to an increasingly digital world is about adapting skills and education to such an environment. This includes fostering confidence in using the technology, source criticism and a basic understanding of how the Internet and its economy work, and how it’s governed. Promoting human empowerment in a 21st-century environment is to recognize that digital literacy is vocational and civic education combined in one.

Will the Internet technology bring the world together or tear it apart?

The G20 meeting in Düsseldorf also put the finger on the constant tension between globalization and the development of an interconnected Internet. Geopolitics continues in an interconnected world, and it puts to test free trade, liberal ideologies and enables new actors that challenge the traditional roles of states.

Technology isn’t neutral in balancing geopolitical interests. Cyber threats and attacks including to harm nations economically are becoming more common, sophisticated and damaging. With this, cyberspace on its own has become the fifth domain of warfare, and tensions among governments are likely to increase. The UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cybersecurity will meet later in June to clarify the mutual responsibilities of governments to promote confidence building in cyberspace. In the same month, the new Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace (GCSC), which has a three years mandate to bring a multistakeholder perspective to the intergovernmental negotiations, will have its first full meeting in Tallin.

So, is the Internet helping to unite nations or can it tear them apart? Are we moving towards a multipolar world where everybody is fighting against everybody or are we able to identify common interests and to build new innovative political mechanisms – like the multistakeholder approach – around the technical innovation which drives now the global economy?

Since the 80’, globalization and growth of an open and interconnected Internet have been closely interrelated. Openness is their common denominator. However, today’s fears and temptations of isolation could have an unavoidable impact on the open Internet as we know it, i.e. the communications infrastructure of the digital economy and society.

As we have seen in recent years, the Internet is increasingly seen as a domain where hacking and dis-information are “the continuation of politics by other means”. What happens in cyberspace is no longer isolated to cyberspace, but is seen as a manifestation of global dynamics. Online hate-speech, surveillance, terrorism, and state-sponsored attacks are all activities that are driving these developments and are in turn impacting the Internet itself. Censorship, calls to weaken encryption and to force data to adhere to national borders will reduce the opportunities which come with an open, free, borderless and secure Internet.

As noted by Jovan Kurbilja, head of the Geneva Internet Platform, “if the crisis of globalisation leads to further restrictions on the movement of people, capital, and goods across national borders, the same is likely to happen with Internet cross-border traffic.” Such “a less integrated society would lead towards a more fragmented Internet along national and commercial borders” with unforeseeable consequences for cybersecurity, the digital economy and human rights. The risk of these dynamics of a fragmented Internets is that economic and social promises of the digital opportunities would be broken, we would see a deepening not only of the digital divide but new forms of digital battles to re-distribute the shrinking digital dividends. In the wake of new global commitments such as the 2030 Agenda, this is of outmost concern as it could undermine the Internet’s role as a critical enabler for development.

But this is also why the G20 agreements can be so important. They identify the opportunities, the challenges, and offer a chance to settle the political mistrust through collaborative visions. They can help to turn digital fear into a digital détente.

Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

The G20 this year did agree on a set of useful goals from expanding Internet infrastructures through increased competition to supporting MSMEs in reaping the benefits of digitization and promoting consumer protection online.

This is good, BUT much more needs to happen. Fears will disappear and eventually become themselves an engine for progress if we have a concrete plan to harness the impact of the Internet on our societies. This implies to deconstruct the issues and transform high-level declarations into actions.

We would propose considering at least three immediate actions:

  • Increasing accountability for data breaches by giving users control and imposing more of the economic externalities of the data breach on the organizations holding the data.
  • Promoting digital inclusion by expanding access and empowering users. Digital literacy needs to be a priority in education, and business practices have to adopt a user-centric approach to managing personal data.
  • Protecting encryption to protect a trusted ecosystem. Because confidentiality is the basis of any society and economy. Weakening encryption constitutes a systemic risk to the Internet and its plethora of online services including banking transactions, e-commerce or government services.

The Way Forward

How can this be achieved? There is no blueprint or ideal solution. Each case must be treated individually. But one thing is for sure: It will need the efforts by all stakeholders.

Governments certainly play an important role. But they are not “the only band in the digital town”. The G20 recognized in Düsseldorf “the critical importance of private sector and enterprises in the digital economy”. This is a very realistic statement. But this will not be enough. All stakeholders are needed. A multistakeholder approach can´t be reduced to a public-private partnership where big government and big industry agree on top down behind closed doors. A multistakeholder approach – as supported in the Düsseldorf Declaration – needs also the involvement of the Internet technical community and the active participation of civil society, the citizens and netizens in cyberspace. Otherwise, decisions will not be legitimate nor sustainable.

It is good that the G20 Ministerial Declaration refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to freedom of expression and “applicable frameworks for privacy and personal data protection”. Ignorance of individual rights will undermine trust as a key issue of digital transformation. This is relevant also for mass surveillance, both by governments and by private corporations. References to this controversial subject are missing in the Düsseldorf Declaration. This issue has been raised recently in the March 2017 meeting of the UN Human Rights Council by UN Special Rapporteur for Privacy in the Digital Age, Joseph N. Canatacci. And this issue will not go away for the governments of the G20 nor for the private corporations which are collecting personal data from billions of individual Internet users.

Anyhow, the commitment to the multistakeholder approach by the G20 governments is a good step forward. The next step is to translate the commitment into concrete actions. How “sharing” of policy development and decision making among state and non-state actors in cyberspace – as agreed in the WSIS Tunis Agenda from 2005 – can be organized in the day-to-day operations? This is not easy and a big challenge. This needs political creativity. And there is a still a long way to go.

Even with the positive approach towards multistakeholderism under the German G20 presidency, a lot of the multistakeholder gestures were more symbolic than substantial. The Ministerial Declaration was negotiated behind closed doors by the governmental Sherpas and participation in the multistakeholder conference was by invitation only. There was no remote participation as we know it from EURODIG or the UN Internet Governance Forum.

With other words, if form follows function, there is still space for improvement for the G20 governments to position themselves in the global Internet Governance Ecosystem. Key criteria for multistakeholder processes, specified in the 2014 NetMundial Declaration from Sao Paulo, like openness, transparency, bottom-up, inclusiveness etc., did not exactly match with the 2017 “Road to Düsseldorf”.

It remains to be seen how the G7 will handle their meeting of the Digital Economy Ministers in Torino in September 2017. And it will be interesting to see, how the BRICS summit in Xiamen, also in September 2017, will handle the new challenges which come with cybersecurity, digital economy, individual rights and multistakeholder approaches.

Argentina will overtake the G20 presidency in 2018. The Latin America country hosted already three ICANN meetings. Those experiences will certainly help them to take the next step in linking technical innovations – which drive the digital economy – to political innovations – which drive the digital society.

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Securing Our Digital Economy

Germany wants G20 leaders to agree to a concrete plan – one that includes affordable Internet access across the world by 2025, common technical standards and a focus on digital learning.

Today, the G20 economies, like so many other economies around the world, are digital and interconnected. Digital services have opened up new avenues for sustainable economic growth. But, the digital economy will only continue to thrive and generate opportunities for citizens if the Internet is strong, secure, and trusted. Without this foundation, the global digital economy is at risk.

Currently, there are 360 million people that take part in cross-border e-commerce. 28% of output in mature economies is digital. The Internet is set to contribute $6.6 trillion a year, or 7.1% of the total GDP in the G20 countries. And, by 2020, it’s estimated that more than 1 billion users will be added and there will be 30-50 billion additional connected devices. This level of interconnection will only boost the market.

However, this cannot happen without a serious commitment by all parties to security and privacy. The truth is that economies can only function within a secure and trusted environment.

Which brings us to encryption.

Strong encryption is an essential piece to the future of the world’s economy and the Internet Society believes it should be the norm for all online transactions. It allows us to do our banking, conduct local and global business, run our power grids, operate, communications networks, and do almost everything else.

Encryption is a technical building block for securing infrastructure, communications and information. It should be made stronger and universal, not weaker.

However, rather than being recognized as the way to secure our online transactions or our conversations, all too often the debate focuses on the use of encryption as a way to thwart law enforcement.

To undermine the positive role of encryption in the name of security could have devastating consequences.

Many great minds have already devoted considerable effort to resolving the conundrum posed by competing public policy objectives: providing security, safety and trust on the one hand, and law enforcement and legitimate policy goals on the other. But, it is time to stop kicking the encryption football up and down the field. Instead, we should recognize that encryption is key to the future digital economy and stop treating it as simply an obstacle to law enforcement. We need to deconstruct the issues faced by law enforcement and policy makers and agree together how we can achieve a trusted digital economy underpinned by encryption.

This is the first time the G20 countries are holding a Ministerial on digital matters. It is also the first time that the G20 is inviting non-government stakeholders to contribute to these issues. This is a turning point that should not be missed. All views, including the technical perspective, must be at the table if we are to achieve progress on the G20’s ICT goals.

If the G20 countries are serious about strengthening their economies and continuing to deliver economic and social prosperity to their citizens in future, there are three key principles they should endorse and implement immediately:

1. Encryption is an important technical foundation for trust in the digital economy and should be the norm. All users (whether government, business or individual) should use encryption to protect infrastructure, communications and the privacy and integrity of their data. Encryption technologies should be strengthened, not weakened.

2. The security of the digital economy is a shared responsibility that needs the expertise and experience of all stakeholders, across border and across disciplines. It is an urgent need that will require open, inclusive collaboration.

3. Users’ rights should be at the heart of any decisions related to the digital economy. They are both the customers and the contributors to the success of the digital economy.

The Internet Society calls for ubiquitous encryption for the Internet. We strongly believe that this is the best foundation for trust in the digital economy, and we urge the G20 nations to stand behind encryption.

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My Data. Your Business.

In times like these, it’s easy to be paranoid.

Almost every day there is a new story about an app, a TV or a child’s toy that is collecting too much data, or a massive data breach, or the latest kind of ransomware doing the rounds of the Internet.

We may not know the specifics, but we do know that somewhere out there someone is tracking us online: in fact, most of the data monetization machine is invisible to consumers — the individuals whose data fuels it.

All this has, understandably, left many people wary. Why WOULD you trust someone or something that is gathering information on you with no real insight into how it will be used?

The consequences of this could be devasting to the economy. If do not understand how their data will be handled and used and therefore don’t trust online transactions, online business will wither and die. The economy that the Internet supports could disappear.

Today is a day when world leaders will be listening. Not only is it World Consumer Rights Day, but it is also the G20 Consumer Rights Summit in Berlin. Robin Wilton, who helps lead Technical Outreach for Identity and Privacy for Internet Society, is on a panel to send a clear message that consumers, companies, and governments must take up the cause of data protection to help create an Internet we all can trust.

The global economy depends on it.

Here’s why your data is collected

For companies, your data means money for them.

Take Snapchat, a mobile messaging service where messages “disappear” after a few moments. In 2014, Snapchat turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook to buy it.

And just a few weeks ago, Snapchat just filed for a $3 billion IPO and debuted at $17 a piece on 1 March and popped up to as high as $26.05 on day two.

Why is a service that prides itself on “disappearing” messages be so valuable? The answer depends on what Snapchat represents to you. If you’re part of a younger market that is less interested in leaving indelible footprints on Facebook, and is more interested in spur-of-the-moment mobile messaging, then the idea of a service where your messages automatically disappear is an attractive one.

If you’re looking to acquire the company, its value lies in the personal data consumers can’t avoid disclosing – their names, their phone numbers and most importantly, their network (the people they are connected to).

Different people see different values in the same company, and that can mean tensions when it comes to consumer protection. How can the company monetize its consumers’ data, while still delivering the privacy they signed up for?

Why is it a big deal for us?

With companies willing to pay millions, even billions, for information on what we do online, there is a strong motive for companies to collect all they can, keep it forever and use it for as many purposes as they can dream up. That sends a strong signal that we need to be in control of our personal information.

And while some companies are open and clear about what they do with our data, we – as consumers – are mostly kept in the dark. And, let’s face it, innovation is happening faster than our individual ability to keep up. Sometimes it seems like there is an “act now, ask for forgiveness later” culture.

And, then there’s the issue of data breaches. Large-scale data breaches continue to plague both the commercial and the public sector and to affect millions of consumers and citizens, as noted in the Internet Society’s 2016 Global Internet Report.

So if data collection and data breaches are showing no sign of stopping, what can be done?

Encryption is a key

We typically think of encryption just as a way of keeping information secret, and therefore as a way of mitigating the risk of a data breach — but in the digital world, it is much more than that.

  • It ensures that Internet traffic goes to the right destination.
  • It helps establish that you are talking to the person (or service) you meant to talk to.
  • It protects you against fraud when you pay online or in person.
  • It secures your mobile phone, your satnav, your home wireless connection.

Encryption underpins trust in almost every aspect of online activity, and as the Internet of Things expands, that list will only grow.

The Internet Society believes that encryption should be the norm. It’s the basis for fueling what the Internet brings to our economy, it’s a tool that helps us to trust our online transactions, and it helps all of us – from consumers to businesses to governments – boost our online security. It is not a threat, but a tool to help us know we’re doing our part to secure ourselves and the Internet.

Organizations Must Act.

Organizations must also play a role.

Together, with businesses and other organizations, the Internet Society believes that we need standards to handle consumer data ethically.

We propose a set of simple, but effective, principles any organization can implement, to create a culture of ethical use of personal data.

  • Publish ethical data commitments and stand by them.
  • Be honest and fair about consent and re-use.
  • Be transparent about your business model.
  • Embody ethics in product/service design.

We believe this will result in more sustainable business models for personal data, and lead to more trust between consumers and service providers.

These principles are a starting point. They should also be reinforced by practical measures, such as the Privacy by Design approach set out by Canadian and Dutch data protection commissioners in the mid-90s. For example, it recommends the practice of data minimisation: collect only what you need, keep it only for as long as you need it, destroy it safely and make sure it is secure. Restrict access – remember you are holding someone’s very personal and private data – and encrypt!

If you would like to take part in the development of these principles, please get in touch.

Consumers need policy on their side

Policy makers must step up to the plate as well.

One of the most important places to start is to create a way to reward organizations and companies for ethical data handling practices and to encourage ways for those entities to credibly signal to consumers what standards they are applying. Ethical data handling is not only a solution for consumers: it is also a foundation for trust and sustainable economic growth.

Policymakers must work to create the conditions in which ethical data handling can have a positive effect on the market.

We all have a role to play

But, above all, we, as consumers, can take steps now. Inform yourself, demand better privacy and protect the data on your devices and in your communications, by using encryption.

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4 Critical Internet Questions The G20 Leaders Will Debate in 2017

Last week was the “Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20” event, a joint conference between the OECD and the German government setting the stage for the G20 meeting later this year in Hamburg, Germany. As an international forum gathering the world’s twenty major economies this is as much a political event as a thermometer on the major concerns that will drive international ICT policy in the near future.

Resisting a reflex of fear and isolation

The 2017 G20 on “Shaping an Interconnected world” is taking place in a context where the Internet has an ever growing influence on geopolitical affairs. All major international fora, whether the UN Security Council, NATO or G7, are all deliberating the challenges and opportunities that have emerged as technology and connectivity are redefining the world.

However, it is also taking place in a context of political strides towards a “deglobalization” of the Internet, despite the world’s increasing dependency on a global network. Never has the Internet’s contribution to economic growth been so important: nearly 40% of G20 economic growth is driven by the digital economy, and the Internet economy in developing markets is steadily growing by 15%-25% per year – all enabled by the Internet’s global character. Yet, what we are observing today is a reflex of fear, and attempts to address global issues through inward-looking national solutions.

In a context where nationalist and de-globalization movements makes progress in all parts of the world, and where concerns of cyber security is growing, we see a new focus on borders and government control that threatens to splinter the Internet into separate networks based on technology and regulations. At their 2016 summit, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs) called for cyber-borders and the respect of their cyber-sovereignty. Other countries like the US have sent signs they could revert to cyber-protectionisms by pulling out of the global trade agreements in the Pacific region (TTIP). More worrying, the exercise of government control such as Internet shutdowns have also increased in a growing number of countries as shown the last Freedom House Report.

It is important to recognize that the opportunities of information technology are also coupled with challenges. The issues we see today are in many cases legitimate concerns for governments with the responsibility to protect the welfare of their citizens and the stability of their economies. For example, cyber attacks are a growing concern for individual users and businesses alike. As highlighted in the Internet Society’s 2016 Global Internet Report, a recent survey from the U.S. NTIA found that 45% of US people had changed their online behaviour because of their fears. With cyberattacks estimated to cost the global economy $445 billion annually it is not surprising that calls for action are at the top of many agendas.

But there are also other concerns beyond the issues of security. The sharing economy, i.e. the “uberization” of traditional services, is creating challenges to the social compact of many democracies. Many countries are approaching an era of higher automation with concerns for employment and the impact on society. A study performed by Oxford university estimates that 50% of current jobs could be replaced by artificial intelligence in the medium term, revealing the Internet’s full potential of disrupting industries and societies.

From the view of the Internet Society all of these issues amount to one greater concern – trust. It is the key ingredient for a sustainable, evolving, global Internet. Without it, the global network of networks crumbles, leaving behind a fragmented Internet with lost opportunities.

As outlined in ISOC’s policy framework for an open and trusted Internet, one of the key dimensions of sustaining a trusted Internet is to promote a Trustworthy ecosystem for its governance, which is ultimately dependent on a collaborative approach among all stakeholders. Only then can issues such as the impacts of security and privacy incidents on the market place be addressed through effective security and privacy risk management strategies and policies. Without it, there is a risk that unilateral solutions instead create residual damage through blunt and inefficient solutions – possibly creating larger damage than the problem to be solved.

An open and global Internet is the way forward

With the German presidency of the G20 we see that Internet issues rise to the highest level on the agenda. Heads of State of the 20 most powerful countries in the world will be tackling multiple questions – all of which will require the collaboration of all stakeholders:

  • Access: What are the policy frameworks that need to be put in place to accelerate Access development and ensure that the remaining half of the global population gets online? How do we improve networks and services through convergence? How do we promote competition while fostering innovation and investment? Addressing these questions is critical to global commitments such as the 2030 Development Agenda.
  • Openness and Innovation: What does Openness mean and why it is important? What policy priorities are driving different approaches to Internet openness in different countries, and whole-of-government approaches to digital innovation? As highlighted in the Cancun declaration adopted at the 2016 OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy, openness is key to realise the Internet’s full potential – that must be the guiding light in what seems like a dark time.
  • Trust: How do we develop and implement digital security and privacy risk management strategies? What are the impacts of digital security and privacy incidents on the market place? What is the link between consumer trust and market growth/e-commerce? To solve these issues governments must recognise the importance of a collaborative approach, built on multistakeholder collaboration. This was one of the key outcomes at the G7 meeting in Japan last year, and we hope that it can inspire a similar approach among this greater group of countries.
  • Jobs and skills: How do we foster employment creation in new economic activities while mitigating the social costs of job displacement in mature industries? How do we develop new approaches to education, training and re-skilling to meet the fast-changing demand for new skills in the digital economy? These issues are key to ensure that the Internet’s full potential is harnessed, while recognising its mission to serve humanity.

The G20 will take place at a crossroad in time, where the future development of the Internet can take on several scenarios. We know this through The Internet Society’s project on the Future of the Internet, where many of the topics to be discussed at the G20 has been identified by our community of experts as key drivers that will shape the Internet in the coming years. Governments’ responses to cyber attacks, the issue of market consolidation and artificial intelligence are some of those dominant drivers.

How they play out, and how we as an Internet community respond, will determine what version of the Internet we will see in five years.


Note: this post was originally published on the Huffington Post.